The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - CONFESSIONAL | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - CONFESSIONAL

confessional shudder review
In the aftermath of two mysterious deaths on campus, seven students are forced to enter a high-tech confessional booth.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brad T. Gottfred

Starring: Lucas Adams, Paris Berelc, Annalisa Cochrane, Jess Gabor, Brandon Larracuente, Vanessa Marano,  Marcus Scribner

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The media would have you believe that college campuses are filled with snowflakes who break down in tears and run for the nearest safe space as soon as a professor introduces an idea they don't agree with. Could such emotionally brittle types survive in the sort of colleges portrayed in the movies? From 1974's Black Christmas to, well, 2019's Black Christmas, the learning institutions of North America have been depicted by filmmakers as some of the most dangerous places on earth, havens for murderers, rapists and every other category of sociopath you can think of.

The college at the centre of director Brad T. Gottfred and writer Jennifer Wolfe's confined thriller Confessional doesn't buck the trend. Presented as a film student's thesis film, Confessional takes place in the aftermath of the mysterious deaths of two students. Promising film student Amelia (Mia Xitlali) overdosed on oxycontin, despite never having dabbled in drugs before. Zach (Brandon Larracuente) drowned in the college pool, despite being the best swimmer on campus.

confessional shudder review

Seven students with connections to the deceased receive text messages threatening to release damning information regarding their relationships to Amelia and Zach. They're each assigned a time slot to enter a high-tech confessional booth located in an abandoned part of the campus, and are requested to speak their truth or face the consequences.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - To the Stars ]

All seven seem possible suspects. Racquel (Annalisa Cochrane) is the school drug dealer and may have supplied the lethal dose to Amelia. Major (Lucas Adams) runs a misogynist society called "Cock Fights Back". Zach's girlfriend June (Paris Berelc) was cheating on him with his buddy Garrett (Marcus Scribner). Carrie (Jess Gabor) was Amelia's lesbian lover. Nerdy Sai (Jake Short) is Carrie's stepbrother, and harbours lustful thoughts for his sis. Noelle (Vanessa Marano) is a film student jealous of Amelia's talents.

confessional shudder review

Confessional is no doubt inspired by the format of Big Brother style reality shows, with their isolated rooms where contestants bitch about their fellow participants to a captive public audience. It's a presentation that's at odds with the nature of cinema, as it consists entirely of characters doling out exposition as the plot is revealed through a series of chopped up monologues. If, like me, you believe in "show, don't tell," you'll find your patience severely tested.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Only the Animals ]

For this sort of storytelling to work, you need a very strong script and actors of a high enough calibre to keep us engaged. 2013's Locke consisted entirely of Tom Hardy having phone conversations while driving a car, but Hardy is a captivating enough performer, and Steven Knight's script engaging enough to suck us into its relatively low-key drama. The drama of Confessional is far from low-key, involving as it does murder, rape and all sorts of nastiness, but its young ensemble cast lacks the acting chops required to sell its hackneyed script.

confessional shudder review

It doesn't help that Confessional feels like a product of the '90s, with plot revelations that simply don't carry the same sort of social weight they might have a couple of decades ago. The film has a worryingly regressive view of homosexuality, adding to the old trope of equating non-hetero desires with psychotic behaviour. Equally hard to swallow is the idea that a student would take drastic measures to hide their sexuality in this age where young people boast so openly of their gender fluidity and sexual preferences. I don't know what age either director Gottfred or writer Wolfe are, but their movie feels like the work of creators sorely out of touch with today's college-age generation.

Confessional is on Shudder from May 28th.